In a bar in the red light district, beautiful Gulabji (Rani Mukherjee) meets aspiring rock star musician Raj (Ranbir Kapoor). She is drawn to him, but he becomes obsessed by Sakina (Sonam Kapoor), who has given hear heart to Imaan (Salman Khan), who went away a year ago and has sent her no word since.
Review by Louise Keller:
With its lavish production design, extravagant sets, poetic musical numbers and photogenic stars, Saawariya is ravishing to look at, but disappointing overall. It is short by Bollywood standards, but overlong by Hollywood's, where it was produced and despite its cinematic glory by acclaimed filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, it feels as though it goes on forever. The influences are curious. The look is reminiscent of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge with Indian influences but as if straight from Venice with canals, bridges and gondolas strewn with garlands of flowers. The colours are soft and the lighting exquisite, allowing backdrops to dissolve into a haze of cinematic blurs.
The story, based on Dostoyevsky's short story White Nights, is relatively simple. Boy meets girl. Girl likes boy, but he is infatuated by another girl, who in turn is waiting for the return of another. The narrative comprises wall to wall musical numbers that all sound much the same, although visually pleasing with traces of sensuality and eroticism. The story begins in a bar in the red light district, where Rani Mukherjee's Gulabji recalls her first meeting with her 'rockstar angel' Raj (Ranbir Kapoor). She orders a whisky; he asks for a glass of milk. The accent then shifts to the relationship between Raj and Sakina (Sonam Kapoor), the beautiful girl crying under a lace-trimmed umbrella on the bridge. He is smitten but her heart belongs to someone else. The someone else is the handsome and charismatic Salman Khan, who plays Imaan.
Visually there is much to absorb with the dreamy atmosphere, lush backdrops and beautiful costumes. There's a memorable scene in which water lilies, arches and a huge gothic clock play a part. I like the scene when Sakina elicits gold dust as she beats the carpets that are hung in rows. There's an unexpectedly sweet relationship that develops between Raj and his lonely elderly landlady who he calls Lilipop. 'Sakina is like a grand piano, violin, trumpet, saxophone guitar,' he confides to her when asked what she is like, to which she asks 'Is this a girl or an orchestra?' It is a case of self indulgence on the part of Bhansali, who has abandoned story and characters for the sake of stylistic endeavours.
Published May 29, 2008
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SAAWARIYA: DVD (PG)
CAST: Ranbir Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Salman Khan, Rani Mukherjee
PRODUCER: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
DIRECTOR: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
SCRIPT: Prakash Kapadia
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ravi K. Chandran
EDITOR: Bela Leela Sehgal
MUSIC: Monty Sharma
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Omung Kumar (Art direction)
RUNNING TIME: 142 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: None
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
DVD RELEASE: May 28, 2008